Tom Savage

Latest On Duane Brown, Tom Savage

Texans left tackle Duane Brown said he will not report to the team until after its Week 7 bye at the earliest, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports. There is some significance to that date, as Brown could skip eight weeks before returning and still receive credit for an accrued season toward free agency, and La Canfora suggests that Brown will report in enough time to earn that credit.

Duane Brown (vertical)

However, Houston needs him back much sooner than that. The Texans’ offense has been anemic through their first two games of the season, and that is thanks in large part to their poor pass protection. Brown’s return would provide a much-needed boost to the team’s O-line, but La Canfora says there has been very little progress towards a new deal. The Texans have been unwilling to negotiate to this point, and that may not change given that the relationship between the two sides has become quite strained. However, Houston has also been unwilling to discuss trading Brown, even though there may be a number of potential trade partners given Brown’s talent and reasonable salaries in 2017 and 2018 (of course, those reasonable salaries are the cause of Brown’s discontent, so any acquiring team would need to satisfy at least some of his contract demands).

Houston quarterback Tom Savage may have been hurt the most by Brown’s absence during the team’s Week 1 loss to Jacksonville. Savage’s play was certainly sub-par, but he was under duress virtually the entire time he was in the game. Nonetheless, head coach Bill O’Brien felt compelled to make an in-game switch to Deshaun Watson, which almost certainly ended the short-lived Savage era in Houston.

That has fueled speculation that Savage could be traded, but La Canfora reports in a separate piece that Savage is not requesting a trade. His agent, Neil Schwartz, who went public with his displeasure over Savage’s benching earlier this week, said, “I’m not happy and Tom is not happy about this, but we’re not asking for a trade.”

Per La Canfora, at least four teams have expressed some level of interest in Savage over the course of the last year or so, but all were convinced that Houston was very high on the former fourth-round pick and that it would take a lot to pry him away from the Texans. That, combined with the support of veteran teammates that Savage enjoyed, made O’Brien’s quick hook somewhat puzzling, but given that Savage will be a free agent at the end of the year, it is perhaps not surprising that he is content to wait to see what the open market has in store for him rather than push for a trade now.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Kap, Savage, Browner, Johnson

Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick is working out five days a week and is back to his 2013 weight, 230 pounds, as he awaits a potential NFL opportunity, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports. Thanks partially (perhaps entirely) to his social activism, Kaepernick hasn’t garnered a single offer since he and the 49ers parted ways in March. While the 29-year-old would like to resume his career, he’s not saying it publicly because he worries that doing so would lead to further claims that he’s a distraction, Florio suggests.

More from around the game:

  • After insisting throughout the offseason that Tom Savage would be their starting quarterback in 2017, the Texans bailed on him just one half into a 29-7 Week 1 loss to Jacksonville in which their offensive line imploded. The Texans have since turned the reins over to first-round rookie Deshaun Watson, a decision Savage’s agent, Neil Schwartz, spoke with Florio about on Wednesday. As you’d expect, Schwartz isn’t pleased with the move. “I watched all 31 plays, because that was the extent of what Tom saw in the first half,” Schwartz said. “And I can’t figure out why he’s benching Tom. I went through every single play and I even went one step further. I asked two different NFL personnel people (or) coaches on two separate teams to evaluate and break down the film to see if I was missing something. He went 7 for 13 … 12 of the 13 balls touched the receiver’s hands. The only ball that didn’t was the strip-sack fumble that they called incomplete (upon replay). Seven were completions, five were drops” (all of Schwartz’s comments are available here via the Houston Chronicle’s Greg Rajan). Schwartz does have the backing of Pro Football Focus, which ranked Savage’s season-opening performance 15th among 31 signal-callers. Watson came in last.
  • Having not played in the NFL since his dreadful 2015 showing in New Orleans, free agent cornerback Brandon Browner is obviously facing an uphill battle to return to the league. The odds of the ex-Seahawks star making a comeback look even worse now, as Browner was arrested in Los Angeles on Monday on felony charges of making criminal threats to a woman, TMZ reports. The two-time Super Bowl champion hasn’t drawn any known interest since the Seahawks released him in August 2016 (even after playing in the the Spring League this year), and that probably isn’t going to change.
  • The Cardinals are hoping to get running back David Johnson “back by Thanksgiving or Christmas,” coach Bruce Arians told SiriusXM. The initial word on Johnson’s wrist injury has been that he could be out for two to three months. Arians’ timetable seems to jibe with that.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: Texans, Bills, Chiefs, Jets

Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the most important weapon in the Texans’ aerial attack, has caught passes from unheralded veteran Tom Savage and first-round rookie Deshaun Watson this summer. Asked Friday which of the two should start, Hopkins endorsed Savage (via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com). “If anybody should be a judge of quarterbacks, I’ve played with the most quarterbacks in NFL history throughout my first four years,” Hopkins said. “So I put the stamp on Savage, and I think that’s all that needs to be said about that.” The 27-year-old Savage “does everything well,” according to Hopkins, who went on to discuss his own status with the Texans. Hopkins is in a contract year, but he insisted that he has no desire to test free agency after the season. “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of teams in the NFL that would love to have me, but the Houston Texans is my home and the team that I want to play for forever,” he declared.

More from the AFC:

  • Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn went for a second opinion on his injured left ankle and may have to undergo surgery, head coach Sean McDermott suggested Friday to reporters, including Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. Glenn has been dealing with ankle issues since last year, when he missed five games. The five-year veteran entered 2016 having posted three straight 16-start campaigns. Losing Glenn for an extended period of time would deprive the Bills of arguably their best offensive lineman and likely lead to second-round rookie Dion Dawkins taking the reins at left tackle. It would also further eat into Buffalo’s tackle depth – the team cut now-Lion Cyrus Kouandjio in the spring, and Seantrel Henderson will miss the first five games of the season because of a suspension. The Bills’ only other bookend with experience is right tackle Jordan Mills, who started 16 games a year ago but ranked an underwhelming 56th in performance out of Pro Football Focus’ 76 qualified OTs.
  • The Chiefs worked out rookie cornerback John Green on Friday, according to a league source who spoke with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (on Twitter). Green, undrafted from Connecticut, spent time with the Titans in the spring.
  • Rookie running back Shaquille Cooper worked out for the Jets on Friday, tweets Wilson. Cooper, also an undrafted free agent, played his college football at Division II Fort Hays State University.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC Notes: A. Smith, Orr, Watson, Landry

It was former Chiefs GM John Dorsey who ultimately pulled the trigger on the team’s draft-day trade that allowed Kansas City to climb all the way up to the No. 10 overall spot and draft quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But now that Dorsey is out and Brett Veach is in, Matt Miller of Bleacher Report says it is fair to question what the new hire means for incumbent signal-caller Alex Smith.

But according to Miller, not much will change with respect to the team’s approach to Smith. After all, Veach has been with the Chiefs for the past four years, so it’s not as if he’s coming to Kansas City with a fresh take on the situation. Plus, Miller’s league sources all said effectively the same thing: “nothing changes in Kansas City while Andy Reid is the head coach.” As such, you can still expect the team to move on from Smith after the 2017 season — and save $17MM in the process — as long as Mahomes appears ready to assume control.

Now for more from the AFC:

  • Kevin Bowen of Colts.com says all is quiet on the Colts/Zach Orr front, and at this point, the team has had plenty of time to sift through Orr’s medicals. Therefore, Bowen does not believe Indianapolis will pursue Orr in an attempt to bolster its linebacker corps.
  • Although Texans GM Rick Smith was not as definitive as head coach Bill O’Brien in declaring Tom Savage the team’s Week 1 starter, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle confirms that Savage will be under center when the regular season gets underway. Rookie signal-caller Deshaun Watson, meanwhile, is content to remain patient and wait for his opportunity. Watson said, “It’s best for the team. Coach [O’Brien] knows a lot of football. He’s been with … one of the best in NFL history in Tom Brady. He knows how everything is operated. He knows when the perfect timing will be.”
  • Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant recently said he took issue with the way Ben Roethlisberger spoke about him to the media earlier this summer, when Big Ben said Bryant would need to “win back everybody’s trust.” That might sound pretty rich for a player who managed to get himself suspended for the entire 2016 campaign, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com nonetheless believes that it is important for Bryant and Roethlisberger to have the sit-down that Bryant proposed. Although such meetings are often unbeneficial formalities, Fowler says Bryant, whose position in the league is fairly tenuous at this point, needs to feel like the catalyst he can be and not become a source of criticism.
  • The Dolphins‘ best bet may be to simply let Jarvis Landry play out the 2017 season, his contract year, and put the franchise tag on him in 2018, as Roy Cummings of Florida Football Insiders opines. After all, Landry is set to make less than $1MM this year, so even the projected $17MM tag in 2018 would allow Miami to keep Landry for at least two more seasons at about $8.5MM per year, which is well below the $14MM per year he would likely get with a new contract. Although that approach could create some discord between player and team, it does make short-term financial sense.
  • Darryl Slater of NJ.com makes a series of predictions for the Jets, with the most interesting being that he expects Christian Hackenberg to become the team’s starting quarterback no later than Week 12 (New York has a Week 11 bye), and that he expects Todd Bowles to be retained for 2018.

Extra Points: Hawks, Mahomes, Cowboys, Foster, Texans, Savage, Conley

Even though the Seahawks have one of the top starting quarterbacks in the NFL in Russell Wilson, they would have strongly considered drafting Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes if he were still on the board for their first-round pick, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). Mahomes, who went 10th to Kansas City, was long gone by the time Seattle was on the clock at No. 26. The Seahawks ultimately traded out of the opening round.

More from Seattle and a few other NFL cities as Day 2 of the draft approaches:

  • Speaking of the Seahawks, the Cowboys had an opportunity to swap picks with them in the first round, per Dallas executive Stephen Jones (Twitter link via Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News). The Cowboys instead chose to stay at No. 28 because they liked the players remaining on the board, and ended up choosing Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton.
  • When the 49ers called Reuben Foster to inform him they were selecting him 31st overall, he was on the phone with the Saints at the time. New Orleans, which picked 32nd, was already welcoming Foster to the organization. But once Foster got word that he was going to San Francisco, he hung up on the Saints (Twitter links via Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee).
  • The Texans sent a significant haul to Cleveland to move from No. 25 to No. 12 and select Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, but it appears he’ll begin his pro career as a backup. Head coach Bill O’Brien told reporters, including Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, that Tom Savage will be the Texans’ starting signal-caller next season (Twitter link).
  • The Raiders were not the team to request a polygraph test from Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley. Instead, it was the Ravens who ordered the test, as Peter King of The MMQB writes. Once the results came in, Conley’s camp forwarded them to teams around the league, but the Raiders would not say whether the results impacted their evaluation of what happened. Conley will meet with Cleveland police on Monday and he’s “very confident that it will be resolved” (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Journal Review). First, however, the 24th overall pick is headed to the Raiders’ facility on Friday to meet with team brass.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

AFC South Notes: Texans, QBs, Colts, Alie-Cox

While the quarterback dominoes could fall before the Texans‘ No. 25 selection window opens, GM Rick Smith does not feel obligated to take a quarterback in Round 1. Of course, it’s not like the veteran decision-maker would say his team has to have a quarterback by a certain point, it is notable Smith said he would be fine with Tom Savage as a Week 1 starter.

I think he’s proven that he can play at a high level in the offense,” Smith said, via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com. “He’s been injured, so he hasn’t had an extended amount of time to do that, but I am comfortable with that.”

Smith confirmed Houston plans to add a third quarterback going into training camp but didn’t say said passer has to be added through the draft. Although, the 12th-year GM did call this maligned crop of quarterbacks a “good class.” Smith echoed what Bill O’Brien said earlier this offseason, noting the difficulties modern rookies face when taking the reins in Year 1.

It’s rare that you can get a guy that can come in and play at a high level at the position early,” Smith said, via Barshop. “But it’s certainly possible.”

The Texans brought in Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, the latter of whom O’Brien is quite fond of, for visits earlier this week. Both could well be off the board by the time the Texans pick, which could place the team — in the event it doesn’t trade up — with Savage as its Week 1 starter. Potential Day 2 prospect Brad Kaaya also visited this week. The Texans had mild interest in Jay Cutler, but O’Brien prefers Savage to him.

Here’s more from the AFC South.

  • Colts GM Chris Ballard is borrowing a page from “The Cubs Way,” a book about how Theo Epstein reshaped baseball in Chicago. One key similarity between the two decision-makers is their emphasis on young talent. “It takes time to build a team,” Ballard said (via ESPN.com’s Mike Wells). “… Do we have work in front of us? Yes, we do. But it takes time. And the biggest thing that I want to make sure that we’re emphasizing is that competition and they have to earn it. It doesn’t matter where you come from and how we build it or where, from first-round pick to undrafted free agent to street free agent, guy that was cut at the 53-[man roster], future signing.”
  • On a conference call with reporters, new Colts addition Mo Alie-Cox said that the Buccaneers, Chargers, and Seahawks were among the teams that also made offers (Twitter links via Stephen Holder of the Indy Star). The former VCU basketball player added that he picked the Colts in part because coach Chuck Pagano reminded him of (former VCU coach) Shaka Smart. Some teams thought Alie-Cox could play defensive end, but he’ll be a tight end with the Colts.
  • Texans GM Rick Smith said he has not talked to Vince Wilfork since last season, but his “expectation is that Vince is not playing anymore,” Barshop tweets. Wilfork retired after 13 seasons in the league after the Texans’ loss to the Patriots in January.
  • Both Harry Douglas and Da’Norris Searcy accepted paycuts from the Titans this week.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report.

AFC South Rumors: Texans, Jags, Fournette

The Texans again have a choice to make at quarterback, especially now that Tony Romo retired. Currently, Tom Savage tops the depth chart. Various AFC coaches and staffers mostly agree there is some upside to the longtime backup who’s now watched the franchise cycle through four different starters in three years. But the consensus is that he hasn’t shown enough to be considered an unquestioned starter, which is what he would be right now.

I liked his arm talent but thought he was more of a developmental player. … I know some folks like his upside and potential after watching him play a little this [past] season, but I still think he is more of a backup than a starter at the position,” an AFC personnel executive told NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks.

One AFC player personnel director views Savage as a backup who can win games as a spot starter. None of the five staffers Brooks surveyed made a case for the Texans to give the job to Savage this season. This is Savage’s contract year, and it’s likely evaluators will know more about the soon-to-be 27-year-old passer at season’s end. As of now, he has 92 career pass attempts — two fewer than Jimmy Garoppolo, who has generated significantly more buzz based on his somewhat similar timeline — and has completed 61 percent of his throws. Houston has not been connected to any of the available UFAs, having all but ruled out Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick, but is believed to be ready to select a quarterback.

Here’s the latest coming out of the AFC South.

  • Don’t count on the Jaguars or Colts trading for Richard Sherman, offer ESPN.com’s Michael DiRocco and Mike Wells. As much as the team has prioritized impact defenders in recent years, the Jaguars just authorized two mega-contracts for A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell and have the promising Jalen Ramsey. The Colts are in need of a starter alongside Vontae Davis, but Wells points to Chris Ballard wanting to build this operation through the draft rather than give up multiple picks for Sherman. DiRocco believes it will take a first-round selection and another mid-range pick to pry Sherman from the Seahawks. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reports Seattle seeks a high pick and a “very good player” in exchange for the 29-year-old Sherman.
  • Doug Marrone told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com he wants a running back who can move the sticks when teams know they’re going to run the ball. This thinking leads Breer to believe Leonard Fournette could be in play for the Jags at No. 4. Jacksonville has gone defense with three of its past four first- or second-round picks, with T.J. Yeldon being the only outlier since 2015. The Jags met with Fournette, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon last week. Breer reports multiple teams prefer Cook to Fournette due to the Florida State back’s “21st-century style” compared to the more run-centric Fournette. PFR’s Dallas Robinson projects the LSU dynamo to fall to No. 16 to the Ravens.
  • Rick Smith‘s tenure as Texans GM could end due to his inability to find a starting quarterback, Matt Mosley of the Dallas Morning News writes. Since Matt Schaub‘s stock tumbled in 2013, Smith has gone through Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer (and Ryan Mallett), and Brock Osweiler. Mosley believes the GM was reluctant to give up a late draft pick for Romo because of the passer’s health history.

AFC Notes: Texans, Browns, Jimmy G., Fins

The Texans plan to discuss a contract extension with head coach Bill O’Brien after next season, according to owner Bob McNair (via John McClain of the Houston Chronicle). The 2017 campaign will be the penultimate year of O’Brien’s contract, and he has thus far led the typically quarterback-weak Texans to three nine-win showings and two playoff berths.

Houston continues to be in dire need of help under center, of course, which McNair realizes. “It’s important that we upgrade the play at quarterback,” he told McClain. McNair did express confidence in incumbent starter Tom Savage, though he’s leery of the 26-year-old’s durability issues. “He’s played twice (in regular season) and gotten hurt twice,” McNair noted. “That’s our only concern with Tom. He’s smart enough. He knows the system. He’s got a good arm. I think he can get the job done, but if we depend on him, and he gets hurt in the first or second game . . .”

Savage is only atop the Texans’ depth chart now because of the horrid play of Brock Osweiler, whom they traded to the Browns earlier this month. The move was “a shocker” for McNair, who “couldn’t believe” general manager Rick Smith was able to dump Osweiler’s contract on the Browns (albeit at the cost of a second-round pick). Osweiler is just a year into the four-year pact the Texans handed him as a free agent last offseason. Featuring high cap hits and $37MM in guarantees, the deal quickly became an albatross, and McNair has a theory on why things went so poorly for Osweiler in Houston (via McClain). “(O’Brien) didn’t have a chance to get to know him. That’s one of the problems with free agency,” lamented McNair. “In the draft, we’re able to bring them to Houston, sit down with them, watch them interviewed by a bunch of coaches, and you have time to check them out. You can’t talk to them before they become a free agent. You can’t work them out. We didn’t know him that well.”

Texans brass, including McNair, all seemed to love Osweiler last March, but he then bombed on the field and didn’t mesh with O’Brien in his lone Houston season.

More from the AFC:

  • “An NFL source familiar with all the principals involved” speculates the Browns will “make another run” at Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at the league meetings, ESPN.com’s Tony Grossi writes. Business tends to go down at the league meetings with everyone in the same place and we could see trade talks get a jumpstart this week in Phoenix. If a trade does happen, however, the same source says it might not occur until closer to the draft on April 27.
  • Free agent linebacker Zach Brown is reportedly choosing between the Dolphins and Raiders, but Miami’s Mike Tannenbaum-led front office doesn’t seem to be going all-out to sign him, observes Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “The lion’s share of our focus right now is on the draft,” said Tannenbaum, the team’s executive vice president of football operations. “If an opportunity came along, we’d evaluate it appropriately. But our focus is really on the draft and something comes along, we’ll certainly look at it.”
  • Defensive tackle Mike Pennel‘s one-year contract with the Jets is worth $990K, Rich Cimini of ESPN.com tweets. There’s no guaranteed money in the deal, but it does come with up to $250K in roster bonuses and a $50K workout bonus.

Zach Links contributed to this post.

Pauline’s Latest: Savage, 49ers, Conley

Although some around the league reportedly believe the Texans are the best fit for quarterback Tony Romo, other front office members don’t see the fit, according to Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com. If Romo does land in Houston, the Texans could end up trading fellow signal-caller Tom Savage to the 49ers, per Pauline. San Francisco is known to be in the quarterback market, and have been tied to options like Mike Glennon, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kirk Cousins.

Here’s more from Pauline:

  • A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore will ink new contracts and set the market for free agent cornerbacks before Logan Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick sign deals, reports Pauline. Although Bouye is apparently far apart in talks with the Texans, a feeling exists that he could re-sign with Houston at a cost of $12MM per season. Ryan and Kirkpatrick, PFR’s No. 2 and No. 5 free agent corners, respectively, could earn $10-11MM annually, per Pauline.
  • While the 2017 cornerback draft class doesn’t offer as much top-end talent as the safety class, it does boast more depth, opines Pauline. UCLA’s Fabian Moreau, for example, won’t be selected in the first round, but most scouts expect him to come off the board within the first 15 picks of Day 2, according to Pauline.
  • Some evaluators believe Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley is a superior player to former Buckeye defensive back Eli Apple, who was drafted 10th overall by the Giants in 2016. Conley, per Pauline, could be the “steal” of the cornerback position.

Texans Likely To Draft QB, Won’t Pursue Romo

The Texans are likely to select a quarterback at some point in the 2017 draft, team owner Bob McNair told the media today, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (all Twitter links). “We need better performance out of that position, [but there’s not much available out there,” said McNair, referring to the dearth of quarterback options on the free agent market, before intimating that he’d hope Tom Savage is given the opportunity to compete with Brock Osweiler for the starting job in Houston.Bob McNair (Vertical)

[RELATED: Top 3 Offseason Needs — Houston Texans]

Veteran Cowboys QB Tony Romo, meanwhile, isn’t an option for the Texans, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, ruling out one potential fit for the 36-year-old signal-caller. Denver is said to be Romo’s preferred landing spot, although the Broncos may be more apt to pursue him if he’s released from Dallas (rather than being forced to finagle a trade). Cowboys owner Jerry Jones may not wish to see Romo land with another Texas-based club, and Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link) reports Romo wants to join a team that will play the Cowboys in 2017, another factor against the Texans.

Houston is essentially stuck with Osweiler, who completed less than 60% of his passes for 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season, as releasing him now would leave the Texans with a $25MM dead money cap charge. Even a post-June 1 cut would result in a $19MM hit, so the club doesn’t have much of an option other than retaining Osweiler for at least one more season.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.